NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Investigators in the German Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Study have identified several novel risk factors for sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, including sleeping away from home or sleeping outside the parent’s bedroom.
Sleeping face down was identified in a number of case-control studies in the late 1980s and early 1990s as a major risk factor for SIDS, Dr. Mechtild M. Vennemann at the University of Munster and colleagues explain in the journal Pediatrics. This resulted in the recommendation to avoid the prone sleeping position, which was followed by a marked reduction in SIDS deaths in many countries.
In the German SIDS Study, conducted between 1998 and 2001, researchers examined the risk factors for SIDS in a population where few infants slept face down.
A total of 333 SIDS cases and 998 control infants were included in the study.
A significantly higher risk of SIDS was found when infants slept in a friend or relative’s house compared to sleeping in the parent’s home. Compared to sleeping in the parent’s bedroom, sleeping in the living room was also associated with an increased risk of SIDS. Duvets, bed sharing (especially in those younger than 13 weeks), and sleeping face down on a sheepskin all increased the risk for SIDS.
Only 4.1 percent of infants were put to sleep face down. These infants were at high risk of SIDS. A very high risk was also observed among infants who were unaccustomed to sleeping face down and those who turned on their own to the face down position.
“This study in general,” the investigators conclude, “supports the current recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics,” which call for parents put infants to sleep on their backs as opposed to their stomachs.